October 19, 2017
Day 5 of the 2017 UnitedHealthcare California Challenge presented by Boeing took us 72 miles from the Pismo Beach to the Danish themed town of Solvang.
The day began with a Project Hero tradition: a photo of the entire Project Hero California Challenge family on a gorgeous point in Pismo Beach overlooking the ocean.
We then enjoyed the great tradition of the California Challenge, our annual visit to Oceano Elementary School. We gathered with our good friend Jim DeCecco and student riders from the school, who accompanied us into Oceano, where students had made signs with each of our riders name on them and cheered our arrival. It was a wonderful sight as more than a hundred Project Hero riders greeted and took pictures with the students, who created signs for each of our riders.
On Service Jersey Day, we get to celebrate each of the branches of the military that serve and protect our nation, giving us the opportunity to feature Ivan Ortiz, one of our riders from Florida and Puerto Rico.
A native of San Juan, Puerto Rico and current resident of Orlando, Ivan served 23 years in the Army including deployment to Afghanistan in 2007.
Ivan was a cycling enthusiast but never felt at home among civilian cycling clubs in his area, so he searched the Internet and found the Project Hero website, which lead him to Nate DeWalt. A short time later, he was riding in the 2017 UnitedHealthcare Beaches to Peaches Challenge. He also rode the Las Vegas Mountain Bike Experience and our Memorial Challenge this year and has been enjoying this year’s California Challenge.
“This ride has definitely been harder than the others,” he said. “I like Project Hero because I’m with my brothers and sisters in arms.”
Ivan hopes to ride in the Las Vegas Mountain Bike Experience again this year and the Denmark Challenge next year and has taken the Project Hero motto to heart. “When I wake up every day I think of “No Vet Alone”, it’s like a mantra for me.”
For Ivan, “Project Hero is like a military unit without all the formality,” he said. “The people I have met have become more than my friends, they have become my family, my brothers and sisters. I love to see their resilience.”
The 2017 UnitedHealthcare California Challenge presented by Boeing continues tomorrow as we take a 69-mile trek from Solvang to Ventura.
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